Inter 3-3 Roma: Spectacle in Milan, Giallorossi Waste a Double Two-Goal Advantage (Serie A Matchday 26)

Mario Balotelli "shushes" the Roma supporters.

As far as neutral spectators go and taking the match in itself, Sunday’s Inter vs. Roma had everything you could wish for in a football encounter: tons of action, goals aplenty, and even a dramatic come-back 10 minutes from time. In the global picture however, even neutrals secretly wished for Roma to take this one.

Indeed, by maintaining their lead over 2nd-ranked Juventus to +7, the Nerazzurri have further decreased the chance for us to see a close race to the finish in May, and once again have sent a very clear message to their Scudetto rivals: “no matter how hard you try, you can’t take us down”.

Serie A 2008-09 - Inter Milan vs. AS Roma

Serie A 2008-09 - Day 26 - Inter Milan 3-3 AS Roma

As is often the case in such matches, this duel was essentially reduced mid-week to a duel between two players: Ibrahimovic vs. Totti. How ironic was it then that neither player could be available for it, Totti trying his knee in warm-up but yielding to the pain, and Ibrahimovic declaring forfait due to a muscular problem. The latter’s absence made Mario Balotelli quite happy, because it gave the Italo-Ghanaian striker a spot in the starting eleven after more than two months of absence.

Marco Materazzi (L), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Amantino Mancini (R) discuss on the Inter bench.

Despite Christian Panucci’s return to the field (after over one month of absence) Spalletti was without seven players Sunday, David Pizarro adding to the manager’s problems with a problematic ankle. The Roma boss was thus forced to re-design his tactics, putting Brighi behind Baptista and Vucinic & Taddei wider in a 4-2-3-1 line-up. Ironically Totti’s absence made the Giallorossi’s formation much harder for the Nerazzurri to read, and the result was telling: in 46 minutes Julio Cesar let in two goals, something that had only happened during disaster-day vs. Atalanta. Inter’s dysfunction was total, and at the break were leading by two thanks to the superb header by Daniele De Rossi (receiving Motta’s cross from the right), and Jon Arne Riise‘s run on the left, when he controlled the ball with his head and cheekily slotted the ball under Julio Cesar’s legs. 1-0 and 2-0 Roma in minutes.

The goal deficit was actually quite merciful for Mourinho, who had to witness the desperate defensive attempts of Cambiasso on Baptista and Burdisso on Vucinic, as well as the narrow half-volley miss by Brighi on in minute 7. Sifting through the dregs of a nightmarish first half, the only highlights for Inter were a one-two between Maxwell and Santon (which the Brazilian finished off with a poor shot) as well as the contact between Panucci and Adriano in the Giallorossi box, albeit not as bad as the one used by Ferdinand last Tuesday.

Jon Arne Riise makes it 2-0 for Roma.

In the second half Mourinho set about righting the ship, taking significant chances along the way: out went Maxwell and Burdisso, in came Vieira and Figo, with Cambiasso dropping back to the centre of defence. That was guaranteed to shake things up, although it was a highly controversial penalty that really set the match alight. After Balotelli’s first goal (exploiting a good Adriano set-up with a one-time shot inside the first post, 2-1), Roma tried to expose Inter’s makeshift line-up. Baptista capitalised on Cambiasso’s defensive error (good turn to let the ball pass him) and left it to Matteo Brighi and his forward incursion: diagonal effort and 3-1 Roma, but certainly not the final word on the match.

Indeed six minutes later, Mario Balotelli created the fifth goal of his difficult season by going down in the Giallorossi area, drawing the foul (?) after clearing a few defenders. The penalty was generous, not to say incomprehensible as far as Pizarro and Mexès were concerned (there was no contact between the Inter striker’s knee and De Rossi). Balotelli converted the spot-kick and made the “shush” gesture to the Giallorossi fans, just in order to throw gasoline on the fire. 3-2.

Mario Balotelli converts Inter's penalty to make it 3-2.

It was a question of minutes, but the hero of the evening turned out to be Hernan Crespo. The game’s inertia definitely turned when Vucinic missed a great chance to make it 4-2, the striker not powering his head enough after a good Pizarro cross. A very costly mistake, as just a few seconds after coming on to the pitch Crespo leaped into the air (just like during his prime years) and converted Figo’s pinpoint delivery. 3-3, unbelievable, especially for Spalletti & the Roma fans.

Having started very badly, then been kept in the match by the youngest and most contested of their strikers, Inter looked for the winner as the game drew to a close, thereby exposing themselves to the Giallorossi counter-attacks: Menez (on for Vucinic) and especially De Rossi wasted chances to turn an incredible match upside down, and in the end Inter’s courage was rewarded. Roma may have gained a point on Milan, but they have many regrets to take home from San Siro tonight.



F.C. Internazionale Milano
[Match Highlights]
A.S. Roma
GOALSCORERS: 23’ De Rossi (R), 30’ Riise (R), 50’, 63 pen. Balotelli (I), 56’ Brighi (R), 79’ Crespo (I).
INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Burdisso (46’ Figo), Cordoba, Santon – J.Zanetti, Cambiasso, Maxwell (46’ Vieira) – Stankovic (77’ Crespo) – Adriano, Balotelli. (bench: Toldo, Materazzi, Mançini). Coach: Mourinho.
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Motta, Mexes, Panucci, Riise – De Rossi, D.Pizarro – Taddei, Brighi, Vucinic (75’ Menez) – J.Baptista. (bench: Artur, Diamoutene, Cicinho, Filipe, Malomo, Montella). Coach: Spalletti.


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